Colon cancer screening can detect polyps and early cancers in the intestinal area. Such screening can find problems that can be treated before cancer develops or spreads. Regular screenings may decrease deaths and prevent pain caused by colorectal cancer.
SCREENING FOR AVERAGE-RISK PEOPLE
There is not enough evidence to say which screening method is best. Discuss with your doctor which test is most appropriate for you.
Beginning at age 50, both men and women should have a colon cancer screening test. Some health care providers recommend that African Americans begin screening at age 45.
Screening options for patients with an average risk for colon cancer:
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year - if results are positive, a colonoscopy is needed
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 - 10 years, usually with stool testing FOBT done every 1 - 3 years
- Virtual colonoscopy every 5 years
SCREENING FOR HIGHER-RISK PEOPLE
People with certain risk factors for colon cancer may need earlier (before age 50) or more frequent testing.
More common risk factors are:
- A family history of inherited colorectal cancer syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
- A strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. This usually means first-degree relatives (parent, sibling, or child) who developed these conditions younger than age 60.
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- A personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (for example, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease)
Screening for these groups of people is more likely to be done using colonoscopy.